Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023 |
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LIHU‘E — Clarissa Chun, London Olympics bronze medalist in women’s wrestling, challenged Kaua‘i High School students to find a passion about what you want to do and stick to it.
Chun, whose mother and aunt are graduates of Kaua‘i High School, was on Kaua‘i Tuesday for a one-day whirlwind tour, making a point to visit “the school my mother always talks a lot about” where she met up with several relatives, including Waika Alapai, a runningback with the Red Raider football team.
Karen Alapai, Chun’s aunt, said the Olympic bronze medalist has been busy since returning from London, making stops on Maui and appearances on Honolulu.
“She has to go back tonight, too,” Alapai said. “Tomorrow morning she’s on TV.”
Chun said she started wrestling while a junior in high school and never dreamed she would be where she is today — the first wrestler from Hawai‘i to make an Olympic game in wrestling.
“I never knew what was out there beyond high school,” Chun said. “And then, one day, this scholarship packet came from a college in the Midwest. Through scholarships, I could wrestle and travel the world.”
The message is to persevere, she said.
Wrestling for women became an Olympic sport in 2002 and in 2004, Chun tried out for the Olympic Games, falling short at No. 2.
“You have to be No. 1 to be an Olympian,” she said. “I fell short at No. 2. It was tough, but the message was ‘I was not ready.’”
Chun said she got to go to Athens and watch the Games, being motivated to train even harder. In 2008, Chun became the first Hawaiian to qualify for Olympic wrestling in Beijing, falling just short of a medal.
“I was stoked just to be on the Olympic team,” Chun said. “The girl who beat me in Beijing for the medal? I had to beat her in London to earn the bronze medal.”
Chun said she could have stopped wrestling at any point, having jumped into the sport “just to give it a try.”
“But I became passionate about wrestling,” said the Olympian, who celebrated her birthday Monday. “There is still one more step — the gold medal. I haven’t figured out yet if I want to commit to that, but if I do go to Rio (de Janeiro, Brazil), it’ll be all-in. For now, I train really hard. It’s my job, although it’s hard to say ‘it’s my job’ because I love doing it.”
Chun followed her tour with the Red Raiders with a visit to the Kaua‘i Area Complex Department of Education principals’ meeting and a stop to the Kaua‘i Police Activities League facility in Kapa‘a where students were working through some wrestling drills and other activities.
“I’m really excited the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation is getting into wrestling,” Chun said, while working through some drills with the K-PAL wrestlers, one taking her down three times during a sparring bout. “I’d like to see a Kaua‘i person one day become a state champion (in wrestling) and move on.”
Chun, after arriving early Tuesday, stopped for visits with local radio stations, worked with Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, a relative, in a political endorsement, and wrapped up her day with an outing where she got to meet all of her Kaua‘i ‘ohana.
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